Scottish councils name joint digital and tech chiefs to kick-start digital transformation

Twenty-seven Scottish councils have appointed joint chief digital and technology officers to help implement their digital transformation strategy.

Scottish councils have pooled their resources to take on digital transformation – Photo credit: Flickr, Alasdair McKenzie

Capita’s Martyn Wallace has been named chief digital officer, while Serco’s Colin Birchenall will take on the role of chief technology officer.

Both positions are in the newly-created Scottish local government digital office, which was first proposed in a digital transformation strategy for local government at the start of this year.

After being approved by the Scottish Local Government Digital Transformation Board and the Society of Local Authority chief Executives, the bodies pooled their resources to create a digital team to run across the councils for the next three years.

The office aims to create a centre of excellence in data, technology and digital across the councils in Scotland, helping each of them to provide citizens with better digital services.

Wallace and Birchenhall’s first job is to turn the strategy into a set of actions that the councils can then use to create a range of collaborative projects that use digital to cut costs and improve customer experience.

They will also work with the Scottish government, the IT managers’ body Socitm, NHS Shared Services and the Scottish Improvement Service to develop best practice and develop more shared services.

Lorraine McMillian, chief executive of East Renfrewshire Council and chair of the Scottish Local Government Digital Transformation Board said that the new team would “help Scottish councils be ahead of the game, to be as agile and effective as possible in this ever changing digital world”.

Wallace, who was part of Capita’s secure digital solutions team, has also helped the Scottish government develop its strategies for change in public sector ICT and digital inclusion. In 2013, PublicTechnology’s sister publication Holyrood named him as one of the top 100 influential people in Scottish tech.

In a statement, Wallace indicated that he wanted to improve councils’ use of data and give staff better IT tools to do their jobs.

“There is a whole world of untapped data in our local authorities that can be unlocked and used to start small, think big and move fast,” he said.

“’Digital first’ methodology is not just about online transactions. It’s also about supporting the people who work in our local authorities, especially our frontline staff, with the right digital tools and equipment.”

Birchenall led on ICT strategy for Glasgow City Council while he worked at Serco, and has also been part of Glasgow’s £24m future cities demonstrator programme, funded by the government body Innovate UK. He is also a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

He said that government had “an unprecedented opportunity” to re-design how services are provided and stressed that the public sector couldn’t keep up with the rate of technology change alone.

“We need to create an environment for ‘open innovation’ where we all have a stake in our digital future; where we empower people to innovate collaboratively to delivers better outcomes for our residents and provide new economic opportunities for businesses,” he said.


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